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In the world of horsemanship, few figures have left as indelible a mark as Monty Roberts. Often dubbed the "Horse Whisperer," Monty Roberts has transformed the way we understand and interact with these majestic creatures. At the heart of his groundbreaking approach is the concept of Join-Up, a revolutionary method that has not only changed horse training but also gained recognition from none other than Queen Elizabeth II.
The Journey to Join-Up
Monty Roberts' journey into the world of horse training began at a young age. Growing up on a ranch in California, he observed the behaviour of horses in their natural habitat. His keen observation skills and a deep connection with these animals led him to question traditional training methods that relied on force and dominance.
Roberts was determined to find a better way to communicate with horses, one that respected their natural instincts and fostered a partnership based on trust. This determination eventually led him to the discovery of Join-Up.
What is Join-Up?
Join-Up is a non-violent, communication-based approach to horse training. At its core, it is about building trust and forming a bond with the horse rather than imposing control through fear or force. The process involves the following steps:
- Observation: Monty begins by observing the horse's body language and behaviour. This helps him understand the horse's state of mind and any concerns or fears it may have.
- Approach: Roberts enters the horse's space with non-threatening body language.
- Communication: Through body language and movements, he sends signals that mimic the horse's natural herd behaviours.
- Response: The horse, recognising Monty as a non-predatory member of the herd, responds by "joining up" and establishing a connection.
- Trust and Partnership: This newfound trust paves the way for a strong, cooperative partnership between horse and human. This marks the turning point in the training process, where the horse becomes receptive to further training without fear or resistance.
Join-Up is Transforming Horse Training
Join-Up has had a profound impact on horse training methods worldwide. It allows trainers to work with horses in a way that respects their natural instincts and psychological needs. The result is a calmer, more willing horse that is not only obedient but genuinely enjoys the training process.
Monty Roberts' work has influenced countless trainers, riders, and horse enthusiasts. His methods have helped to reduce the stress and anxiety often associated with traditional training, making the experience more enjoyable for both horse and handler.
Recognition from Queen Elizabeth II
Monty Roberts' dedication to revolutionising horse training did not go unnoticed. In 1989, he received a rare and prestigious honour: an invitation to meet with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. The Queen, herself an avid equestrian, was deeply impressed by Roberts' Join-Up method and its potential to improve the welfare of horses.
During their meeting, Monty Roberts demonstrated Join-Up with one of the Queen's own horses. The Queen was not only pleased with the results but also recognised the significance of Monty's work in the equestrian world. This royal endorsement solidified Join-Up's reputation as a cutting-edge and humane approach to horse training.
Monty Discovering Join-Up by Observing Wild Herds
Monty Roberts' journey towards Join-Up began with a simple yet profound observation. As a young man, he spent countless hours observing the behaviour of wild horse herds in the rugged hills near his home. It was during these moments that he noticed something remarkable - the way in which wild horses communicated and formed bonds within their herds.
In particular, Monty was captivated by the process of a dominant horse asserting its leadership without violence. He noticed that the dominant horse would communicate its intentions through a series of subtle body language signals, such as swishing its tail, pinning its ears, or making specific movements. The other horses, in response, would acknowledge the leader's signals and willingly fall in line behind them, creating a harmonious and cooperative herd dynamic.
This natural phenomenon fascinated Monty Roberts. He recognised that these wild horses were essentially "joining up" with the dominant horse, forming a cohesive unit based on trust, respect, and non-verbal communication. It was this observation that became the foundation for his innovative Join-Up training method.
Applying Join-Up in Training
Monty Roberts' goal was to bridge the gap between the wild horse's instinctual behaviour and the world of domestic horse training. He realised that by replicating the natural language of horses, he could create a training method that would be both effective and humane.
In his training sessions, Monty uses the principles of Join-Up to establish a connection and build trust with the horse. By using Join-Up, Monty Roberts not only establishes trust and cooperation with the horse but also helps the horse overcome its natural flight response. This approach has proven to be highly effective in addressing behavioural issues, building confidence in the horse, and facilitating a smoother training experience.
Monty Roberts' ability to translate his observations of wild horse behaviour into practical and compassionate training has become a cornerstone of modern horsemanship, emphasising the importance of understanding, empathy, and communication.
A quote from Monty Roberts
"A good trainer can get a horse to do almost anything. The great trainer can cause the horse to want to do it.”
Monty Robert working with a horse after Join-Up is established.
When is Join-Up Achieved?
Join-Up is that moment when the horse decides it is safer and better to be with his trainer. It is rooted in trust and cooperation developed through non-violent methods. Join-Up can be achieved with all horses by stepping into their world and understanding the rules governing herd social order. Next, we need to consider the process of Join-Up in greater depth.
Establishing Join-Up with my Horse
This is best achieved in the round pen. The horse must be able to run freely around a confined area, where you can drive him away and control his speed and his direction of movement. You will need a lunge line or lunge whip and will follow these principles:
- Release the horse in the round pen so that he is free to run around the edge, but can not escape.
- Use the lunge rein and raised arms with open hands to drive him in one direction around the perimeter of the pen. Stay within the central part of the pen so that you are not chasing him.
- After a while, move towards the edge and cut the horse off so that he is now moving around the perimeter but in the other direction. Then return to a more central part of the pen.
- Keep this up with a periodic change of direction until the horse is ready for Join-Up.
- When the horse is ready to Join-Up, remove the pressure by walking slowly away from him with your shoulders turned slightly towards him.
A quote from Monty Roberts
“Horses are our silent partners. When we learn their language this partnership grows.”
Why Join-Up Works
You are effectively driving the horse away like a more dominant horse, but at some point, you will be releasing the pressure and turning your back to walk away from the horse. Horses need herd security and at this point, the horse will accept you as a leader and want to be with you. When he approaches you, turn towards him and scratch on his face to show that you are a friend. After this point, he will follow you around the pen.
How do I know my Horse is ready to Join-Up?
The horse will communicate this in 4 ways:
- Ears: The ear closest to you will be directed at you.
- Slowing: Slowing down and lowering his head.
- Chewing: He will start chewing.
- Smaller Circles: Making smaller circles.
The horse is ready to Join-Up when he tells you all 4 things. This is when you establish Join-Up.
Watch Monty in action:
The take-home Message
Monty Roberts' discovery of Join-Up and its subsequent impact on horse training is nothing short of remarkable. His dedication to understanding and respecting horses' natural instincts has transformed the way we interact with these magnificent animals. The recognition from Queen Elizabeth II further underscores the importance of his work in the equestrian world.
As we continue to learn from Monty Roberts and his Join-Up method, it is clear that the future of horse training lies in fostering trust, communication, and partnership between humans and horses, rather than relying on outdated methods of coercion. Thanks to Monty Roberts, the world of horsemanship has become a more compassionate and harmonious place for both horses and their human companions.
Can I use join-up if my horse is already broken in?
Does join-up work for all types of horse use and styles of riding?
Can join-up be created without using a round pen?
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